Saturday, October 26, 2013

Round 2 at the Big Dog Backyard Ultra

[Photos from John and other runners and crew]

Back in Big's backyard to run the annual "last (wo)man standing" race in Tennessee!  I was very excited to get to participate for the second time.

For a more complete explanation about the race and a nice photo tour of the course, here's my write-up from 2012:

Again we lucked out with beautiful weather, even better this time with overcast skies on Saturday, a clear night, and cool sunshine on Sunday.  One of these years it is not going to be so nice...

The trail was in pristine condition, cleared and improved by Laz and some friends.  We didn't even have to deal with a marsh or any mud.  Many thanks for a lovely 4-mile running loop for this event.

I came into this race approximately in the same shape as last year, with additional Big Dog-specific training.  I felt so lucky to be there, after breaking my jaw almost a year ago and all the stops and starts involved in recovery.  I thought I was patient before, but I've had to learn a new level of patience as I try to run as long (and longer) than ever while getting a bit older and dealing with odd and assorted aches and strains.  Feeling healthy and ready to run on Saturday morning was a huge relief.

Mentally I was better prepared, building on last year's experience of finishing 27 hours and working up a plan for dealing with day 2 that involved focusing only on myself.  Drama in this event builds as fewer runners remain, and the race ends only when the 2nd-to-last person stops.  So it's interesting to watch what other people are doing.  But all that matters is me.

Ready for the fun!

This year we had chip timing and online results - very cool:

The timing tent and folks getting ready before the start (before the clock was changed to "race time"):

I had a slight difficulty in getting back and forth between the start/finish area and our TA spot, as we weren't supposed to cross the timing mat except at the beginning and end of each loop, and there wasn't any room to pass just outside the mat (well, I tried, but apparently my chip kept triggering anyway), and going around the tents involved trying to not step on other people's stuff.  Mike said they would work on fixing that for next year.

Other than that, it was great to get a bunch of data from our lap times, and some folks entertained themselves with the analysis as the race went on.

Group photo of the Orange Hat Club:

Tim and Tim getting ready:

Gathering with friends:

And... go!

It was great to see Liz and Scott there!  John especially got to chat with each of them and catch up.  They are strong distance runners, and if Liz ever sets her mind to focusing on this event, watch out for that.

My first lap was really easy on my legs, almost too easy.  I got antsy about my slow splits and had to pass a couple groups of folks in order to feel comfortable about my lap time.  After that I had no issues, and spent the rest of the day talking with people and soaking up the time on the trail while things still felt easy.

We got to meet Sue and talk with her for a while.  She's another excellent runner and enjoyable to spend time with.

Charlie showing off his funny hat:

Steve and Shannon coming down the field, followed by Catherine:

Tim and Lisa watching Buddy, me, and Ben approaching the end of a lap:

Tim out for a stroll:

Mr Big. watching over the proceedings:

Another lap start:

Mark looking good:

Greg and Ed finishing up lap 5:

All together again for the start of the 6th hour:

Case and Sue finish up the initial road section before heading to the trail:

John brought the camera around on one loop.  Here is "Halfway Rock" - go team V!

Yay for the little rock canyon!

And a few more rocks:

View back to the start/finish tent village:

Paul's shirt ("Running Sucks") made me laugh:

Go John!

Go Marcy!

Go Tim!  Sure was a lot of excitement in the middle of the day:

Laz taking it all in:

Someone caught an awesome shot of Sal running while a hayride drove past.  Another hayride came by us on the road during the night loops.  It's always fun to try to guess what those folks are thinking.

Ray on his way to another perfectly-timed almost-60 minute lap:

Spending a little time together:

Ben accomplished his goal of completing more laps than last year, and then did one better for a total of 10.  Nice job Ben!

John makes me smile  :)

Lisa doing a fabulous job crewing for her husband Tim:

Go Ray!

Starting the last trail loop of the day, which will end in the dark.  This is the tough one; it takes extra effort to finish this lap, at least for me.

Once that was done, we were ready to start the road laps for the long night.  It took less adjustment for my legs to switch to the road this year, that was nice.

John decided not to mess with any road loops this year - his 50 miles on the trail were fun and he was ready to crew for me.  Thank you John!

Some photos of the sights near the turn-around, I believe these might be from Tim and Lisa's pre-race scouting.  Here is where we turn around for the out-and-back:

The house across the way that had a big fire since last year:

One small obstacle in the middle of the road lap:

The road section takes patience, but it certainly is a time to relax and cruise for a few hours.  I ran the first downhill, ran-walked the small hills in the middle, and mostly walked the big uphill toward the end.  Mark W. and Sheryl are super fast walkers, so they tended to start in the back and catch up at the end.  No one hit these laps hard this year, everyone seemed to be biding their time.

I paid attention to my knees, the only parts of me that warranted notice beyond little niggling stuff that came and went.  There was only one time of actual concern, when I ran down the first hill like normal and then my right knee started up with some pain as I continued running on the flat road.  I did some deep breathing while mentally holding my breath that the problem would pass.  I speed-walked and talked to my knee, striking up a deal that I promised to take it real easy down the steep part at the beginning from now on, if only my knee would be OK.  That worked, phew.

The stars and the moon were spectacular overnight.  Someone even took a picture of the moon:

The constellations were harder to see because the moon was so bright, but it was so easy running on the road without a light.  No near-collisions at the center line this year.  Also no dogs in the road (one barked for a while at the Dog House but eventually they brought it inside).  Very few cars.

Toward the end of the night I watched Orion move across the sky, followed by a constellation I have learned is called Canus Major.  I choose to call it "Big Dog", so Orion must have the nickname "Laz".

Other folks hung around the campfire eating brats and telling stories:

For a while I kept thinking there was a haze over the fields, nope, just campfire smoke...

It was great talking with people off and on throughout the night.  We all got along and it felt like a real camaraderie, everyone going through a similar experience and wishing well on everyone else.

Finally the "easy part" was over and it was time to return to the trails.  There were 6 of us starting lap 25 this year - Tim, Mark, Jim, me, Keith, and Sheryl:

I focused on staying calm and not getting too nervous about finishing the trail loops.  I knew I could complete at least a couple, but how many was the question.  I wanted to try to balance the physical stress of pushing to make the cutoff time with the mental stress of watching my splits and being OK with going slightly slower as needed.  Most of all I didn't want to overtax my respiratory system this year.

My breathing was higher on the trail compared to the road, but I was still comfortable.  I wanted this to be about my legs, and that's what it ended up being.  I found that I had no more uphill power walk, just a so-so uphill hiking pace.  Downhills were still working great.  So I used the downhills to stay on track and give myself leeway to keep my breathing under control on the uphills.

It was a beautiful morning for running!

Taking a short break with a little help from my crew-man:

Someone mentioned something about expecting some carnage at the start of the trail loops, but except for losing Tim D. after 24 hours with (I think) a knee problem, everyone else held on for several laps.

Mr. Mark Williams, first 100-mile Barkley finisher!  It was a great honor to meet him and run with him.  Dude can power hike like no one I have ever seen.

It was apparently the first frost of the season that night, complete with a thin coat of ice on everything, but I was dressed enough that I didn't notice.  The campfire was a huge draw for people who weren't staying warm by running:

Mr. Big enjoying some company:

Everyone still hanging tough:

I had a goal to get further than last year.  Here is the start of the lap to match my PR.  I believe Mark started this hour but did not to finish it:

Sheryl still looking good.  The women's race was a lot more competitive this year.  Three women started the road section (including Sue), and 2 were still going the next morning.

Not looking half bad myself:

John continued to be an immense help in transition, having my Spiz ready (and warmed overnight!), boiling water for pumpkin chai latte, helping me with quick clothing changes, and being my sounding board for any random thoughts that happened to come out in those couple of minutes.

Sheryl and Jim timed out during lap 28.  Only 3 left, including the last woman standing!

My downhills were getting slower, the uphills weren't getting any better (although no worse), so I knew I was starting a slide.  Would it be gradual or would it be quick?  I was game to find out.

However... at 15 minutes into lap 29, I suddenly needed an emergency pit stop.  No way would it wait, as much as I would have given to hold off for the porta-potty back in TA.  I had told someone earlier that I wasn't squatting unless absolutely necessary.  Well, ... I found a tree for some help, and the actual process was OK, but all of a sudden I was way behind on time.

Coherent enough to do the math, I briefly thought I was done.  Then I decided that no, I wanted credit for this lap if at all possible.  4 minutes behind at the next split (vs. ~56 minute lap times that morning).  I ran, I pushed all the sections that I could without overtaxing my breathing, I rock-hopped, I pounded the downhills.  At least I could still move!  I knew full well the consequences of this effort, but I wanted credit for this lap.  3:30 behind the next split.  Then 3 minutes.  I couldn't relax up the fenceline hill like I normally enjoyed.  But I made it - 57 minutes to cross the line.

So I didn't have to push quite that much to make it, but it was almost an all-or-nothing "turn on the jets".  I was happy that my legs had responded.

As expected, my legs then decided I must have been racing for the finish line, the race was over, and it was time to seize up while I lay down and recovered.

I wasn't about to let them completely off the hook.  I started lap 30 to see if I could coax any relaxation and return to "normal" out of them.

Not so sure this occasion merits a photo - here's me not able to run any more!

Still a beautiful day...

I went out on the trail but my legs had nothing left.  It was slow and painful, hobbling and stiff.  I had a mind to time out on the loop and finish it for an even 125 miles, but it became clear that it really was pointless to do so.  Eventually I turned around and hobbled back.

Hey, last woman standing anyway!

Keith and Tim went on to battle it out over the next several hours.  Not sure I could have lasted that long, but it was fun to watch from the sidelines:

Also nice to take a nap...

Chatting about the race and what fun we had:

Big watching from the house:

After 35 (!) hours, Tim finished his lap but Keith didn't make it back in time.  Wow, what an amazing job by the 2011 winner - now a repeat champion!

Helping Tim put some warm pants on - or John was helping, I was the moral support who didn't want to squat down:

Congratulations Tim and Keith, you are amazing!

Huge props to Tim "never quit" Englund.  35 hours, 145 miles, showing us that the edge of this race boundary is again further out there.

Big thanks to Laz, Mr. Big, and the whole Cantrell family for hosting this crazy, inspiring, demented, interesting, and fun race in your backyard!